Darwinia is a game about sentient, evolving life forms (Darwinians) living inside a computer. Their home is threatened by a computer virus, and the player’s task is to destroy the virus and save the Darwinians. Darwinia was the darling of the Independent Games Festival at the Game Developers Conference last week, winning three awards for Innovation in Visual Art, Technical Excellence, and the Seamus McNally Grand Prize worth $20 000.
The RAM Raider gives a different take on the game which has had praises heaped upon it both prior to the GDC, and now more widely since winning the awards at the conference:
Darwinia isn’t a technically excellent game. It doesn’t run as smoothly as games that look much better, and the gesture system was so ridiculous they virtually admitted it was ludicrous and unnecessary by adding in an alternative system in a patch. There’s no AI there either — Lemmings let you set waypoints, and that was 15 years ago.
Games that are poorly executed and aren’t properly tested are released all the time. What we’re really getting at is we find it ironic that, despite Introversion‘s speech at the awards, they were in desperate need of a publisher “fucking up” Darwinia, assuming by “fucking up” they meant “play-testing and ironing out obvious design flaws before release.”
RAM Raider further argues that a different Introversion game, which places the player in the role of a freelance computer hacker, is more polished and deserving of praise:
Uplink is a classic game, but with the exception of PC Gamer’s early review thanks to Gillen noticing its brilliance, it won no awards, and barely registered on most of the industry’s radar. It was left to the gamers and consumers to discover and support. Now it’s too late to sing the praises of Uplink, the industry has entered into a “guilt” phase of trumpeting Introversion as the saviours of gaming. Projecting the success of Uplink onto the inferior Darwinia, and defending any misguided views with the response that Introversion are British independent developers and therefore “cool,” (so that means any shortcomings in their game is excusable, natch) or it’s been designed for higher beings to understand, the industry has shown itself as being about four years out of touch. Worse, it patronises Introversion and cheapens their success.